Leverage points and Victor Papanuk


In discussing Donella Meadows’ chapter on leverage points (downloadable PDF here) from Thinking in Systems, our class asked which leverage points are most accessible to us as designers. A leverage point is where one may intervene in a system to alter the flow of information and resources or delay the speed of exchange. Behavioral change makes sense as a point we students at DSI can affect. Using clever and clear communication design, we can translate an experience to a behavior change.

An interesting metaphor comes in mediated reality. James Turrell, a MacArthur Fellow and artist who uses light and space, explains we can’t change the color of the sky, but we can certainly change the context of how one experiences the sky. We alter reality by altering how one sees reality, and he demonstrates this by explaining the camera as a cultural planning tool.

We made this eye that sees for us, like the camera, and this is very much a part of how we organized our culture. Of course it became this holder of truth. In a court of law you take a photograph and use it as evidence…But, if you think about it, there are many factors: first of all, where you point the camera and which lens you choose. Then there is the setting of the aperture. All may be in focus, or just a part with the rest out of focus. Then, of course, you get this photo that you can change in development, and crop. Finally you can present this photo as “proof of reality,” when every step of the way you’ve created the reality…This idea of how we create our reality contributes to this prejudiced perception that we have. And though learning to represent three dimensions in two, has been a great help to our culture in planning and modeling.


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